Optimization of FFU synthetic sleeper shape in terms of ballast lateral resistance

Document Type : Article


School of Civil Engineering, Beijing Jiaotong University, Beijing 100044, China


Fiber-reinforced foamed urethane (FFU) synthetic sleeper is used in ballasted track with the potential problem of insufficient lateral resistance due to lower weight and smooth surface compared with concrete sleepers. In this paper, the lateral resistance of prototype and modified FFU synthetic sleepers was investigated by single tie push tests and DEM analysis, where the real shape of ballast particles was created using 3D scanning technique. Results indicate that due to the smooth surface of sleeper facets, the lateral resistance of prototype FFU sleepers is reduced by 10-15% and governed by the interactions of shoulder ballast and sleeper ends. On the other hand, modification of the sleeper shape by adding FFU strip block along sleeper base and sides increased lateral resistance up to 19 % of prototype sleepers with higher interlocking ability between ballast and sleeper sides. Results could be used to develop modified FFU sleepers for application in various ballasted tracks.


1. Manalo, A., Aravinthan, T., Karunasena, W., and Ticoalu, A. "A review of alternative materials for replacing existing timber sleepers", Compos. Struct., 92(3), pp. 603-611 (2010).
2. Ferdous, W. and Manalo, A. "Failures of mainline railway sleepers and suggested remedies-review of current practice", Eng. Fail. Anal., 44, pp. 17-35 (2014).
3. Sadeghi, J. and Barati, P. "Comparisons of the mechanical properties of timber, steel and concrete sleepers", Struct. Infrastruct. Eng., 8(12), pp. 1151- 1159 (2012).
4. Dogneton, P. "The experimental determination of the axial and lateral track-ballast resistance", In Railroad Track Mechanics and Technology, A.D. Kerr, Ed., Pergamon, pp. 171-196 (1978).
5. Profillidis, V., Railway Management and Engineering, Routledge (2014).
6. Jing, G. and Aela, P. "Review of the lateral resistance of ballasted tracks", Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng. Part F J.Rail Rapid Transit, 234(8), pp. 807-820 (2020).
7. Ferdous, W., Manalo, A., Van Erp, G., Aravinthan,T., Kaewunruen, S., and Remennikov, A. "Composite railway sleepers-recent developments, challenges and future prospects", Compos. Struct., 134, pp. 158-168 (2015).
8. Ferdous, W., Manalo, A., and Aravinthan, T. "Bond behaviour of composite sandwich panel and epoxy polymer matrix: Taguchi design of experiments and theoretical predictions", Constr. Build. Mater., 145, pp. 76-87 (2017).
9. Erp, G. and McKay, M. "Recent Australian developments in fibre composite railway sleepers", Electron. J. Struct. Eng., 13, pp. 62-66 (2013).
10. AREMA, American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association, Engineered Composite Ties, Part 5, Chapter 30, Man. Railw. Eng., 1 (2012).
11. An-Shuang, L., Delan, Y., and Guoxiang, L. "A study on the application of resin composite sleeper in the design of long-span rail bridges", Sustain. Transp. Syst., A study on the application of resin composite sleeper in the design of long-span rail bridges, 2012, pp. 523-531 (2021).
12. Freudenstein, S. "Investigation on FFU synthetic wood sleeper", Technical University of Munich, Research Report No. 2466, 2008 (2016). https://www.sekisui-rail.com/en/technical-researchon- ffu.html.
13. Silva, E.A., Pokropski, D., You, R., and Kaewunruen, S. "Comparison of structural design methods for railway composites and plastic sleepers and bearers", Australian Journal of Structural Engineering, 18(3), pp. 160-177 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1080/13287982.2017.1382045.
14. Kaewunruen, S., You, R., and Ishida, M. "Composites for Timber-Replacement Bearers in Railway Switches and Crossings", Infrastructures, 2(4), 13 (2017). https://doi.org/10.3390/infrastructures2040013.
15. Montalban Domingo, L., Real Herraiz, J.I., Zamorano, C., and Real Herraiz, T. "Design of a new high lateral resistance sleeper and performance comparison with conventional sleepers in a curved railway track by means of finite element models", Lat. Am. J. Solids Struct., 11(7), pp. 1238-1250 (2014).
16. Tanaka, H. and Furukawa, A. "The estimation method of wheel load and lateral force using the axle box acceleration", Proc. 8th World Congr. Railw. Res., Seoul, Korea (2008).
17. Mulhall, C., Balideh, S., Macciotta, R., Hendry, M., Martin, D., and Edwards, T. "Large-scale testing of tie lateral resistance in two ballast materials", Third Int. Conf. Railw. Technol. Res. Dev. Maintenance, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, pp. 1-12 (2016).
18. Yan-li, Y. "Experimental study on design parameters of longitudinal and lateral resistance of ballast bed for III type concrete sleeper", J. Railw. Eng. Soc., 10, pp. 49-51 (2010).
19. Indraratna, B., Salim, W., and Rujikiatkamjorn, C. Advanced Rail Geotechnology-Ballasted Track, CRC Press (2011).
20. Freudenstein, S. "Lateral displacement resistance of FFU synthetic wood sleepers in consolidated ballasted track", Technical University of Munich, Research Report No. 3484 (2016). https://www.sekisui-rail.com/en/technical-researchon- ffu.html.
21. Kish, A., On the Fundamentals of Track Lateral Resistance, Am. Railw. Eng. Maint. W. Assoc. (2011).
22. Ferro, E., Harkness, J., and Le Pen, L.J.T.G. "The influence of sleeper material characteristics on railway track behaviour: concrete vs composite sleeper", Transportation Geotechnics, 23, 100348 (2020).
23. Koike, Y., Nakamura, T., Hayano, K., and Momoya, Y. "Numerical method for evaluating the lateral resistance of sleepers in ballasted tracks", Soils Found., 54(3), pp. 502-514 (2014).
24. Jing, G.Q., Aela, P., Fu, H., and Yin, H. "Numerical and experimental analysis of single tie push tests on different shapes of concrete sleepers in ballasted tracks", Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng. Part F J. Rail Rapid Transit, 233(7), pp. 666-677 (2019).
25. Kabo, E. "A numerical study of the lateral ballast resistance in railway tracks", Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng. Part F-journal Rail Rapid Transit-Proc Inst Mech Eng F-J Rail R, 220, pp. 425-433 (2006).
26. Le Pen, L.M. and Powrie, W. "Contribution of base, crib, and shoulder ballast to the lateral sliding resistance of railway track: a geotechnical perspective", Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng. Part F J. Rail Rapid Transit, 225(2), pp. 113-128 (2010).
27. Jing, G., Fu, H., and Aela, P. "Lateral displacement of different types of steel sleepers on ballasted track", Constr. Build. Mater., 186, pp. 1268-1275 (2018).
28. Laryea, S., Baghsorkhi, M.S., Ferellec, J.F., McDowell, G.R., and Chen, C. "Comparison of performance of concrete and steel sleepers using experimental and discrete element methods", Transp. Geotech., 1(4), pp. 225-240 (2014).
29. Khatibi, F., Esmaeili, M., and Mohammadzadeh, S. "DEM analysis of railway track lateral resistance", Soils Found., 57(4), pp. 587-602 (2017).
30. Ferellec, J.-F. and McDowell, G.R. "A method to model realistic particle shape and inertia in DEM", Granul. Matter, 12(5), pp. 459-467 (2010).
31. Xu, Y., Gao, L., Zhang, Y., Yin, H., and Cai, X. "Discrete element method analysis of lateral resistance of fouled ballast bed", J. Cent. South Univ., 23(9), pp. 2373-2381 (2016).
32. Guo, Y., Zhao, C., Markine, V., Jing, G., and Zhai, W. "Calibration for discrete element modelling of railway ballast: A review", Transp. Geotech., p. 100341 (2020).
33. Zhang, D., Huang, X., and Zhao, Y. "Investigation of the shape, size, angularity and surface texture properties of coarse aggregates", Constr. Build. Mater., 34, pp. 330-336 (2012).
34. Itasca, M., Particle Flow Code in Three Dimensions (PFC3D), Minneapolis (2008).